Completing The Fold

Colm Cille’s Spiral has been a complex project with many elements. It addressed the apparently remote history of a 6th Century monk about which, as Clare Lees said in closing remarks to the project ‘We know nothing – right? Nothing’. It was firstly perhaps a project about the difficulties of history. It took place around six locations or knots, and each of these fractured into multiple locations (ultimately at least twelve places across the British Isles were sites for work, with others from the UK Ireland and Greece brought into play). So the project was also on the surface about territory in some way. It was ‘delivered’ by twenty-six artists and poets of varying artforms across those locations and resulted in some amazing and rich works. It gives a flavour of the richness of the project to note the media and practices included (poetry, typography, ceramics, photography, video, sound work, walking, singing, sailing, sculptural objects and installation, drawing, and the growing and documenting of online communities). A deeper look at the works, covered in more depth elsewhere on this website could extend this list. These artists have been supported and guided by five arts organisations, five universities, four independent curators and a network of advisors. This scope of time, place, people and institution gives a good idea of the projects’ complexity.

However it is important to distinguish between complexity and complication, because all these voices were navigating through and illuminating the same project and formed a related investigation around an easily grasped central point of gravitation. By finding their own interpretations and using their own networks and techniques these multiple voices were helping us all work through our own understandings.

The project was initiated by Difference […]

‘The Fold, A Creative Convention after Colm Cille’, ‘Colm Cille’s Spiral’, 30 Nov – 1 Dec 2013, Derry~ Londonderry

Colm Cille, the founding father of Derry, is attributed in a poem as describing the city as follows:

“The reason I love Derry /Is its quietness, its purity/ For full of angels white it is/ From one end to the other”.

We arrive in the city for our concluding event, ‘The Fold’, at a time when it could be described as busier than Colm Cille envisaged it in his mind’s eye, with impressive queues for the Turner Prize, nightly gatherings in squares to see the Lumiere Festival projections and generally a city and audience confidently in full swing for all the cultural offerings of Derry~Londonderry City of Culture 2013. With this event ‘The Fold’, The City of Culture itself and London Street Gallery become the containers for all six knots of ‘Colm Cille’s Spiral’.

There was a word regarding Celtic Art that Dr Katherine Forsyth (Reader, Celtic and Gaelic Dept, University of Glasgow) used in her presentation at CCA in Glasgow back in October:  ‘interlace’. Interlace refers to the complex geometric patterns on stones, manuscripts and on jewellery, where motifs are looped, and braid and knots intertwine. The detail is so extraordinary that in some of the manuscript illustrations, it would take a magnifying glass to see the full picture. This word ‘interlace’ describes my understanding of this multi-layered project.

So, if we pick up the magnifying glass and hold it up to ‘Colm Cille’s Spiral’ at its conclusion – ‘The Fold’- what can we see? The ‘interlace’ brings into full view the ‘knots’ of Glasgow / the Hebrides, Newcastle/ Lindisfarne / Bamburgh, Derry, Dublin, London / Bradwell-on-Sea and Lichfield / Llandeilo. The ‘interlace’ also braids the past and present, mirrored by a key objective of ‘Colm Cille’s […]

A slow approach to Lindisfarne

It was a pilgrimage of sorts, by train, bus, then walking to Lindisfarne and Bamburgh, to experience ‘Antiphonal’, two sound installations by Tom Schofield comprising poetry by 12 North East poets. The poems, also published in pamphlet form as ‘Shadow Script’, were commissioned by Linda Anderson of Newcastle University’s Centre for Literature Arts as a response to the medieval texts and this undulating landscape of historical narrative.
We stayed in Durham to see the Lindisfarne Gospels (on temporary exhibition) first-hand, the pen and colour still so fresh and real, then retraced their dispersal from Lindsifarne following the Viking attacks.
The bus dropped us at Beal, about five miles from Lindisfarne, where we camped overlooking the sea – walking to the island early the next morning with a tent and heavy rucksacks seemed appropriate for seventh century monastic life and Cuthbert’s ascetic existence. But as time went by, and the long causeway and sweep of the Snook stretched out before us, the distant nub of the village and abbey ruins seemed to get no closer. We pondered on getting provisions and building materials onto the island without motorised transport when St Aidan founded the monastery, what could be grown on the island and how hard life must have been. Then as we arrived, the spell was broken by bus loads of tourists, cafes and shops.

The words of poems were broadcasting in the Tower, reaching with the eye into the seascape, and back and forth in time. But others coming in were in a different space, so we descended to Cuthbert’s isle and read two of the poems from Shadow Script to each other.


He’s sad to see […]

By |August 23rd, 2013|The Word|0 Comments

Talking Books: Lindisfarne, Bamburgh and Bradwell-on-Sea

In the space of five days last week, I visited first – and alone – the poetry installation of ‘Antiphonal’ by Tom Schofield, sound and interaction artist, in the crypt of St Aidan’s Church, Bamburgh, on a Sunday afternoon, next, on the Monday – and in the company of Linda Anderson of Newcastle University – the complementary installation of ‘Antiphonal’ in the Lookout Tower on Lindisfarne, and finally, on the Thursday – in the company of assorted medievalists, artists, curators and Difference Exchangers – I travelled on to the Chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall, Bradwell-on-Sea to engage in the unfolding of new ways to know the past in London and Essex. That’s two knots in Colm Cille’s Spiral: The Word (Newcastle, Lindisfarne and Bamburgh); and Ethical Knowledge (London and Essex). And a journey of my own making to listen to poetry, in place, and to think about we can know of the past from the ways in which we respond to it in the present.
 ‘Antiphonal’ is an installation in two parts, in two places, drawing on the multiple voices of the poems commissioned for The Word by Sean O’Brien, Colette Bryce, Alistair Elliot, Cynthia Fuller, Peter Armstrong, Pippa Little, Bill Herbert, Peter Bennet, Christy Ducker, Gillian Allnut, Linda France, and Linda Anderson. The poems are also brilliantly edited by Colette Bryce as Shadow Script: Twelve Poems for Lindisfarne and Bamburgh, which has just been published by the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts, and is on sale from there as well as on site. (

I have been carrying this book around with me for a while now and, having heard ‘Antiphonal’, I know that I will return to it and to these poems […]

Curators’ Conclave

I was invited to take part in the Curators’ Conclave in King’s College, London on Wednesday 22nd May. This offered ourselves as curators from the six knots of the Spiral, medievalist historians and Difference Exchange to meet to share ideas, interpretations and debates surrounding Colm Cille’s legacy and how we feel visual and literary art can represent this.

It was interesting to hear medievalist, Michele Brown talking about questioning her role as an historian and what drives her.  To “fire the imagination” and to question medieval society and in turn, reflect on the issues and values of society today. I noticed that common themes in Colm Cille’s story arose; information flow, ownership and copyright, all of which are topical with the rise of the digital, open access to information and knowledge online.

In Colm Cille’s time oral storytelling were traditional ways to safe keep information, which leaves many gaps in knowledge. Perhaps literary and visual arts can play an interpretive role of filling in the grey areas of knowledge to create new possibilities. Instead of establishing historical facts, the knots may be open ended and ephemeral, we ask more questions rather than answering them.

Curators from the six knots or “themes” gave us an insight into their work with the chosen artists, scholars or illuminators; discussing approaches, outcomes and ways of representation. Interpretations ranged from song performances on a boat, sound installations in a crypt, literary interpretations, google algorithms, tours of hidden relics and exchanges of knowledge, which cross over cultures and languages.

We discussed the state of flux that the projects are in and how the six knots could be represented as a whole. Is physical representation in a gallery space necessary? Or could it be an […]